SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Matt Roblez lives a double life.
The difference in his dual personality is perhaps best shown on his LinkedIn profile page.
The smaller profile photo shows Roblez smiling, in a suit and tie, proudly holding a plaque honoring him as the 2016-17 Engineer of the Year from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The larger cover photo depicts Roblez, while also in a shirt and tie, donning a dark pair of sunglasses while shouting defiantly into a microphone, inside the ropes of what appears to be a boxing ring.
To ask the man shown inside the pictures, he’ll tell you they’re of two completely different people.
The one photo shows Matt, the decorated civil engineer, the other depicts the “MK Bandit,” a ‘heel’ or villain, scorned by fans and heroes alike of multiple local professional wrestling circuits across the western United States.
“It depends on who you talk to because people in wrestling are surprised that I’m an engineer, and people in engineering are surprised I’m a professional wrestler,” Roblez says with a laugh to ABC4.com.
What may be even more surprising is that Roblez got into professional wrestling at an older age, finding a passion for getting thrown around by fellow wrestlers and being booed by the crowd when he was 40.
He explains that after showing up to help out as the ring announcer at a wrestling show one night in 2009, he was asked to fill in for the villain in the performance, mostly because his suit and tie would fit the bad guy’s persona.
Since then, Roblez has been hooked, and his own wrestling persona, the MK Bandit (the ‘MK’ is an homage to his days working for the cosmetics company, Mary Kay), has continued to evolve. Nowadays, the suit has been switched out for a Gucci printed tracksuit, a reference to the MK Bandit’s desire to remain cool and hip even in his 50s.
Dressing in an intentionally offensive outfit, complete with sunglasses that would more commonly be seen on someone a bit younger, the MK Bandit is brash, bold, and unlikable.
That’s exactly how Roblez has designed his character to be; the villain who enables the ‘face’ or hero of the performance to overcome an evil nemesis and receive the adoration of the crowd. It’s an important part of the wrestling game.
“Without a villain, the superhero can’t become super, right?” Roblez asks theoretically. “So my job as a heel is to put as many obstacles in front of the ordinary man as possible so that when he overcomes them and defeats me, he is a superhero.”
A couple of the ‘faces’ or heroes of the wrestling show, and yes, the performers acknowledge it is a show, with a predetermined ending, have turned their passion into a growing business.
Married couple Manny Smith and Diana Milford are the owners of Devotion Championship Wrestling, a promotion that holds a wrestling match each month at The Gateway Mall in Salt Lake City. One of Devotion’s biggest events of the year, the Halloween Bash, is set for this Saturday at 7 p.m.
Smith and Milford will be in attendance, but like Roblez, they also will be donning their alter egos. Smith will transform into Manny Lemons, the lemon-biting, feather boa-draped, sunglasses-sporting maniac with a ‘zest for life.’ Milford, who grew up in Samoa before moving to West Valley with her family, leans heavily into her heritage as Reka Tehaka, with island-inspired ring attire that compliments performance elements such as doing a Haka dance during her introduction.
Milford is quite the sight in the ring, sticking out her tongue and screaming to intimidate her opponents before throwing them through the air and across the mat. Her husband laughs that her performance persona actually isn’t too far off of how she actually is outside the ring, maybe just a bit inflated for the show.
“That’s just herself times 10,” Smith explains. “In real life, she’s a bada**, in the ring, she’s a bada**. She’s got a soft side to her too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very rare that you see that soft side.”
Even though Milford is still somewhat new to the sport, having started when she and Smith were dating a few years ago, she has gotten quite comfortable in the ring. She’s already made several television appearances on All Elite Wrestling’s promotional circuit and has more shows in other promotional companies already booked.
Milford and Smith are so committed to making it big in wrestling when they’re not back in Utah working on their own company, they’re living in Atlanta, training at a world-class wrestling school called The Nightmare Factory, multiple times a day.
Getting into wrestling, which is often criticized for being ‘fake,’ was harder than Milford was expecting. She recalls when she first took a ‘bump’ on her back on the mat, she thought her head came off her body.
However, during her first television appearance, performing in front of thousands of adoring new fans, Milford realized she was on her way to the big time.
“I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities in so many different states and I’m still building my brand and things like that but I see myself taking this definitely to the limit, to the top and being the best.”